Monday, June 29, 2015

How to Have a Good Fight

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If you haven’t figured it out by now, I love to read. I have several books going at a time and if I could, I would quit all my jobs and just read all day. I hope that, if you want to build the strongest marriage you possible can, you will read everything you can get your hands on so that you can educate yourself and have a full toolbox. I recently read Drs. Les and Leslie Parrot’s book The Good Fight and I’d like to share some things I have learned that might also help you.

If you have been married for more than a day, you know that it will not always be smooth sailing. It’s not a matter of IF there will be conflict; it’s a matter of WHEN. Not only will there be conflict, John Gottman’s research found that 69% of it will not be solvable! Yikes! How do we navigate that? The Parrots, in their book, give a lot of great tips to solve the 31% that can be solved and how to manage the other 69%.

First, all fights are not created equal, according to the Parrots, “A good fight, in contrast to a bad fight, is helpful, not hurtful. It is positive, not negative. A good fight stays clean, but a bad fight gets dirty. According to researchers at the University of Utah, 93 percent of couples who fight dirty will be divorced within ten years. A study at Ohio State University showed that unhealthy marital arguments contribute significantly to a higher risk of heart attacks, headaches, back pain, and a whole slew of other health problems, not to mention unhappiness. In the end, bad fights lead to marriages that are barely breathing and will eventually die.”

The Parrots have this great chart in their book that clearly differentiates a good fight from a bad one:

              Bad Fight                                         Good Fight

Goal:                 Winning the fight                            Resolving the fight
Topic:                Surface issues                                Underlying issues
Emphasis:          Personalities/power struggles       Ideas and issues
Attitude:            Confrontational and defensive       Cooperative and receptive
Motivation:        Shift blame                                     Take responsibility
Mode:                Belittle                                            Respect
Manner:            Egocentric                                       Empathetic
Demeanor:        Self-righteous                                Understanding
Side Effect:        Escalation of tension                      Easing of tension
Result:               Discord                                          Harmony
Benefit:              Stagnation and distance                Growth and intimacy

Which column shows your fighting style? The Parrots noted that, “if you boil the essence of a bad fight down to a single ingredient and sum it all up in one word, it would have to be pride.” Proverbs 13:10 says, “pride leads to conflict, those who take advice are wise (NLT).” It’s that simple. The Parrots explain further, “A prideful spirit keeps us from cooperating, flexing, respecting, compromising, and resolving. Instead, it fuels defensiveness and discord. It stands in the way of saying ‘I’m sorry.’ It lives by the motto ‘The only unfair fight is the one you lose.’ Self-centered pride is at the heart of every bad fight. Research shows that when pride sets in, a partner will continue an argument 34 percent of the time even when he knows he’s wrong or can’t remember what the fight was about. A full 74 percent will fight on even if they feel ‘it’s a losing battle’.”

In the next 4 blogs, I’m going to show you how to have good fights, ones that are productive and beneficial and can actually strengthen your marriage. So stay tuned.

Another great way to build a stronger marriage is to attend our Seven Principles of Making Marriage Work workshops. You can find out more info at

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